The Miami Marlins promoted outfield prospect Marcell Ozuna to the major league roster yesterday, replacing the injured Giancarlo Stanton. Ozuna went 1-for-3 in his big league debut last night, and is the obvious choice as today's Prospect of the Day.
Ozuna was signed by the Marlins as a free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2008. A cousin of former major leaguer Pablo Ozuna, Marcell made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League and performed decently enough with a .279/.335/.416 line along with eight steals in nine attempts. Promoted to the Gulf Coast League for 2009, he hit a very solid .313/.377/.486 with 22 walks and 52 strikeouts in 214 at-bats. His swing mechanics reportedly needed a lot of work, but even with that flaw he produced good numbers and the upside was huge.
Ozuna opened 2010 at Low-A Greensboro but hurt his wrist after six games and went on the DL. He came back in June and went to Jamestown in the New York-Penn League, hitting .267/.314/.556 with 21 homers, which is a pretty incredible total over 68 games in a short-season league that is difficult for power hitters. He also struck out a lot, with 94 whiffs in 270 at-bats and just 17 walks. Scouting reports indicated that he murdered fastballs, but was hyper-aggressive and struggled on pitches outside the zone.
Returning to Greensboro for 2011, he stayed healthy and hit .266/.330/.482 with 23 homers, 17 steals, 46 walks, and 122 strikeouts in 496 at-bats. His power/speed combination was impressive, but his plate discipline was questionable and his swing still got out of control at times. 2012 was similar on the surface: .266/.328/.476 with 24 homers, 44 walks, and 116 strikeouts in 489 at-bats for High-A Jupiter. However, the park/league context wasn't as friendly and his relative rate of production last year was actually better than in '11, with his wRC+ rising from 119 to 127.
Ozuna was hitting .333/.383/.810 in 10 games for Double-A Jacksonville before his promotion to the majors.
Listed at 6-1, 220, Ozuna is a right-handed hitter and thrower, born November 12, 1990. His enormous raw power is obvious, but it isn't his only tool: he also has a very strong throwing arm. He's lost a little speed with maturity but still runs well, handles right field without trouble, and could steal 10-15 bases in a full season. The main question revolves around contact: his power is undoubted and he's made significant strides making his swing mechanics more consistent, but he's still quite aggressive and will go on swing/miss binges against breaking stuff, which will tend to suppress his batting average and OBP. He will also punish any pitcher who puts something in the wrong place.
Although Ozuna isn't the type of hitter who will bat .300, his enormous power stands out. He's also coming to the majors with almost no experience above A-ball, and major league pitchers will expose his weaknesses soon enough. He'll have to adjust, but he's shown the ability to adapt in the past. His makeup is considered a positive, and the Marlins will be patient.